Ollie Horn Made Some Funny Friends In Japan
- Claire Sawers
- 22 August 2018
This article is from 2018
Our man in Japan reflects on racism, fame and identity
There are blow-up kawaii toys of Hello Kitty and teddy bears on the seats when you enter this karaoke party-sized room in the basement of a nightclub. Because it's a small space, and he's packed in punters most lunchtimes so far, Ollie Horn has added an extra show at night too. He packs a lot into his show too, including a support act, for starters, Saku Yanagawa, a Chicago-based comedian who wants to break away from the Japanese style of slapstick comedy and does observational stuff about Asian stereotypes, visa woes and things he finds annoying about Americans.
Horn's set begins with an interesting bit of backstory; he moved to Japan in 2014 to do academic research into trademark law, but bizarrely ended up becoming a recognisable TV celebrity instead (well, a 'big in Japan' celebrity). He does a lot of smart, questioning stuff about racism, cultural differences and the trouble with expat communities in Southeast Asia, before confessing sheepishly that he was educated at Oxford, for which he carries a certain amount of class guilt. Horn wrestles with unfair power dynamics between East and West, and is clearly still trying to figure out where he fits in.
Noticing that there was next to no comedy scene in Japan, he set up a comedy club, which gave him a platform to talk about his mum's odious new boyfriend and his obsession with fried chicken, as well as more serious stuff like Japan's identity crisis or the dangers of isolationism for islands such as Britain and Japan. It's a dense, funny show, with video clips of the strange Japanese commercials he starred in for cash, plus top facts about vending machines and ramen soup.
Laughing Horse @ Cabaret Voltaire, until 26 Aug, 12.10pm, 9pm, donations.